Wednesday, April 16, 2014

safety and sleep in the divine

With Stephanie out of town, it falls to me to do the parental duties, namely, get everything ready for Campbell for school tomorrow... to feed him... give him his bath... rock him and lay him down to sleep... and when I finally got Campbell to sleep, I laid there a while, watching him sleep. Like many toddlers, he fought it. First his eyes were wide open, looking around, then he would close them, then open them again.

After a bit, though, the time he spent with eyes open became less and less, and the time spent with eyes closed began to lengthen. After a little bit, his eyes remained shut, the pacifier stuck firmly in his mouth was barely moving, and his hand, which lay on my outstretched arm across the bed became limp. He was asleep. In one final act of awakeness before he became completely enveloped in his dreams, he moved closer to me, put his head into my chest, laying on his side close to me.

Campbell snuggled up next to me, where it was was warm. Where it was cozy. Where it was familiar. Where it was... safe? No. Not safe. There was no "safe" as he doesn't know what that word means, only how it feels... rather, he has no concept of danger. He has no concept of fear. He just knows that when he is snuggled up to Daddy or Mommy that he is most comfortable, most at peace, most relaxed and perhaps feels our overwhelming love up close that he may not feel when he's across the room playing.

How great it would be in our tired moments, in our weary points, in our days, weeks, months... minutes, where we are exhausted, where we cannot stand, where we fight everything away only to give in to our complete desolation and exhaustion... we would be better to remember the comfort and love that we feel when we are that close and intimate with our own heavenly Father, with a love so deep and consuming that we forget all about "safe" and "danger", and we just feel Him.

His love for us is just as real when we are close to him as when we are far away, but like a raging fire, our proximity does not change its power. We only feel that power when we are near.

We need that love, that embrace, that tender hold of God who says simply, "Come close to me and rest, child. I'll take your exhaustion and give you strength, I'll take your tired and give you joy. But first, just be with me. Be near me." 

That's when we recover.  When we sleep in the arms of God. 

Friday, April 04, 2014

evolution of a blog

I was online the other day, as I am many times, and read something from author Michael Hyatt, who wrote a book about social media called "Platform".  I've got the audiobook, which is really the only way I read at this point, and have tried to get into it, but realize I need a good day or two to digest it and concentrate on it.

What I actually read was quoted from Hyatt by a friend of mine named Amy Campbell (a little promotion--she's called The Resume Lady, and if you need help with your resume and especially setting up a LinkedIn profile, which I have GOT to finish, get in touch with her.  She's pretty awesome.), and the quote went along the lines of revisiting, rewriting and repurposing older posts that you may have written, with the theory being that back in the day, you didn't have a lot of readers... and now you do. 

I dwelled on that for a bit, and realized that it was a pretty good idea... surely there was some great hidden gems I wrote way back when that would be prime for a re-write, right?  Not necessarily.

I spent a while going through the first two years of the blog, founded in 2005, and discovered what I already knew... I wasn't very good. 

Now, to be fair, you should understand who I was writing for... myself and a few select friends.  My posts were personal... not in the sense that I was sharing intimate secrets, but more of, you had to sometimes have an inside track to me to understand what I was saying.  I toss around names like "Jaci" and "Kourtney" and "Matt" and "Mikey" with no context or last names, just assuming that people who are around me will read it and understand what I'm saying... and for the most part, they did.

And I wrote American Idol.  I mean, alot of American Idol.  Like, sometimes a post per episode, or per week on Idol, covering all the songs, all the performances, all the Idols, the eliminations and everything. 

I wrote about mission trips that I went on--which, to be fair, that's why this blog was started, and though its called Clouds in My Coffee, the first few titles included The New York Adventures and The Adventures of Dave and Dave's Sojourn before finally settling on Clouds sometimes probably in 2007 or so.

The web address is, but you will also find it at with the "Broadway Dave" being the New York centered name I came up with as I created this blog, mostly just to report back to the church and its members our day to day workings on the mission field in Brooklyn and The Bronx.  And I kept going after the trip was over. 

Like anyone doing something they've never done before, then doing that one thing over and over and over 900+ times, I think I've gotten better at it, though I will admit there are a few posts written back in 2008, 2009 or so that I read now and think "That's actually really good..."

Will I delete anything?  A few.  There are a few posts that I just don't like at all, or maybe circumstances in life have changed so much that there is no need for a certain post--or maybe no one should read that post anymore.  I doubt that any of you will go back through and scour for any "dirt" because you will find very little controversial, but there's stuff I like... and stuff I don't.

I intended on actually recapping American Idol this year, after taking last year off (because the season was so bad), but The Lovely Steph Leann and I got behind seven weeks--we had to binge watch all the audition and Hollywood episodes, and the first three weeks of the "finals" to catch up... and lo, and behold, we haven't watched last week's episode or elimination.  Don't tell me who got kicked off.

Over the years, I've done some fun things, had a "random bracket" that is the epitome of personalization, really just done to give happy shout outs to people around me that I like... I did a Summer of Blogging in 2011, where I set a goal for myself to blog 100 times over the course of the summer, which I did something like 75... I tried to do a "July 31", blogging every day in July of 2012, and that was a miserable failure, but I did try... I've posted short stories... I've posted songs and videos... I've been political (I just read a 2006 post on gas prices--I was fired up, I tell ya)... and many times, something pulled from The Word. 

All to keep you, the reader, entertained. 

Over the last year, likely due to my involvement with the START Movement, founded by Jon Acuff, now called "Dreamers & Builders" (why the change?  its a long story), my readership has increased exponentially, and I've found myself with something that I only suspected I had a few years ago--an audience.

My page views increase daily by 100 or so (THANK YOU FOR THAT), so someone is reading, or at least visiting the page, so my challenge is to give you something you'd want to read.

So I have two big things I'm working on now...

First.. the blog will change locations.  I've got a book called "Everything But the Posts" written by my friend Becca Ludlum, and its pretty fantastic for anyone who has ever wanted to start, or improve, their blog.  Blogger sucks a chicken turd, so my goal is to move it over to Wordpress and self-host.  I'm not sure I understand the part from "so my goal is" to "self-host", but I'm figuring it out.  (Becca's book is a good source, as is Corie Clark, a blogger and how-to social guru)

Secondly... there is a thing going around called #100HappyDays, where people are posting daily pictures of happy things... I'm going to do that here, on the blog.  I'm calling it Summer of Happy, and from Tuesday, May 26th to the day before Labor Day, I want to do a daily quick post on something that does make me happy.  Either a pic, or a movie review or just something to make me--and you--smile. 

My Taylor notebook of notes that I'll never, ever, ever get together. Oh,
and some of my random topic ideas that I scribbled over the last few days.
At some point, possibly summer, I'll hit 1000 posts, which excites me, because I know a lot of people who start blogs, and know a very small percentage of them post with any regularity, or even at all after a few posts.  Its not easy, even if what you are saying is total crap, its not easy to carve out the time to blog regularly.

I had a word goal in January, February and March of 20K, 15K and 20K words, respectively... I made it in January, but missed in February and March--granted, much of my blog time was taken up by doing my #Hustle (my passion, fyi), and that is Disney Planning, so I don't feel bad about failing.
I don't have a posted word goal for April, I just know what I want to do. I bought a Taylor Swift spiral bound notebook from Big Lots for $1 recently, and it sits at my desk... when I have a thought of a blog topic, I write it down... actually, when I have a thought of anything substantial, or even inconsequential, I write it down. Its full of random notes and jots and so on. 

Do you have an idea book?  Something to carry around, a small notepad or a notebook at your desk, or even Post-its you can use?  You should get one.  Some of the best ideas are only in your imagination for a few seconds, and if you don't get them written down, they go somewhere else to be utitlized. 

So, that's where I am.  And where we'll go. 

Now if I could only get you people to comment more often... no pressure.  =)

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

no soda thirty

If you stroll through my house, affectionately known as The Cabana, take a walk up the steps and into the master bedroom, the look deep in the far right corners of the closet that is there, you can find a pullover.  For about six months, it was a fashion statement to have a shirt/hoodie/pullover known as a "rugby", or maybe a "Navajo" or even a "tater sack shirt", because it was made with a similar feel to it as a croker, or potato, sack.  I have one in there somewhere, given to me my freshman fall at Troy State in 1993 by my friend Miranda Bryant.  I kept it, not as a sentiment of a long lost friendship--on the contrary, we are friends on Facebook and chat from time to time--but more of a reminder. 

A reminder of the "skinny days".  Those days when I weighed less that I do now, much, much less.  I've always been someone who can maintain weight, but not necessarily lose it.  And for the better part of 10, almost 11, years, I maintained a weight of about 15 pounds heavier than I should be, not really losing any, but rarely gaining much either.  This was because of my job at Starbucks, where I did a lot of walking.  I mean, a LOT of walking, back and forth behind the counter.  Using a pedometer on my phone, I figured out that I was getting anywhere from 4 to 6 miles per day in walking.  Just around the store and behind the counter.

The amount of soda I believe I've consumed since November.  Oh, I
meant "daily"
In November, as many of you know, I got an office job at another company, so I stopped walking 4 or 5 or 6 miles per day--not just walking, but quick movement, pivoting, sometimes running short distances... but with the office job?   Suddenly, I actually had time to eat breakfast, very little of which was healthy, and suddenly, I'm afforded the time to drink water all day.  Of course, I am not drinking water, my beverage of choice is a 20 ounce Coke.  Or two.  Or three.

So, I've gained weight.  Way more than I should have gained... I would like to say 15 pounds, but its quite possible it might be 20.  If you'll keep it a secret, since you are my friends and its just us, I'll tell you I'm topping 210 pounds right now... and for my height, 5'7, that's not good. 

The Lovely Steph Leann told me that I wear it well.  Perhaps its my clothes, perhaps its how I wear my shirts or even my walk, but I'd like to think you can't really tell I'm about 30 pounds more than I need to me, maybe even 40.   Seriously. I'm a chunk.  I'm heavier than I've ever been, and worse yet, I get winded like, so, so easily.  And the accountability all falls on my shoulders.

One of the many good things about my new job is even though it gives me plenty of time to munch and drink high fructose corn syrup laden beverages, it also gives me time to listen to my iPod, especially to podcasts and audiobooks. 

So, I'm sitting there at my desk, drinking an ice cold Coca-Cola, and I flip over to a blogsite written by a friend of mine, a dude named Rick Theule... he wrote about "loose pants", essentially how he gave up the very thing that I was enjoying at that every moment.  And as a result, over time he found his pants fitting a little bit better.   It was a great piece that I enjoyed as I drank.

After lunch, I'm then drinking a smooth cup of Mello Yello, and as an added bonus, eating a bag of Bugles, even putting a few of them on my fingers cause I'm stupid.   This time, I'm listening to another friend of mine do his own podcast, called "Remodeling Clay", a dude named Clay Shaver who has an incredible story of losing hundred of pounds over several years.  He was over 400 pounds, and he's down to just over 200 now.  Unbelievable.  (I would encourage you to check out his podcast... its a great motivating 40 minutes about YOU being the best YOU that YOU can be.  And I mean that in all sincerity, no sarcasm.  He's a good dude.)

Anyway, Clay begins to talk about soda... and giving soda up.  I sighed.

To add to the mix, I thought about guy named Royce Emerson, who I worked with at a radio station over a decade ago and haven't seen him since 2001... over the time I knew him, Royce lost lots of weight, and he simply said to me one day, "I gave up Coke and Diet Coke.  That helped me lose 10 pounds right there."

An article in the morning about giving up soda (while I drank a Coke) and a podcast in the afternoon about giving up soda (while I drank a Mello Yello) and a flashback to a guy who lost weight just by NOT drinking soda... it really had me considering what to do, and what I was doing to my own health.

Back in the late 90s... or maybe it was 2006... or perhaps 1995, or it might be 2001, I don't remember when, I just remember it happened... I stopped drinking all carbonated drinks for over a year.  I think it must be like cocaine or heroin though, because after 13 months of not having any Coke products, I remember having one for a meal and it was like those lame Coke drinking polar bears were welcoming me back into the embrace of diabetes and the arms of obesity.

And now, right now as I write this, its 1252am, its almost an hour into April 1st... and for the next 30 days, I'm giving up carbonated beverages of all kinds.  Not just Coke and Cherry Coke and the like, but ALL carbonated beverages.  Not even a sparkling water of any kind, which is good, cause I'm not a fan of most, so I got that going for me.  I made this declaration on Facebook last week, to start April 1st, so now I kinda feel obligated, lest I become like someone who declares Facebook fast and then show up 19 hours later online as if nothing had been said.

The fun part is, I do love ginger ale... its non-decaffeinated, and isn't really that bad for you... and we have a case now, by virtue of me headed to Wal-Mart at 540am to get The Lovely Steph Leann something to drink due to her feeling like crap over the last 24 hours (food poisoning?  virus?  we dunno...).  So it sits there, and I won't enjoy it. 

I call it my No Soda for 30 Days Challenge... or #NoSoda30, to hashtag it unnecessarily.

So, how about you?  Willing to give up some beverage?  Willing to see how you feel on May 1st by not tossing back Mountain Dew or Coke or Pepsi or whatever your beverage of choice might be?

Oh, about that shirt I mentioned.  My goal?  To wear it again.  Even if I don't wear it long, even if I never leave the house with it on... my goal is to put it on and be comfortable in it.  I'll even take a picture and post it, because I am that vain.

Or maybe I'll put it into my daily rotation of outerwear when it gets cool again.  It is a cool shirt.  If I ever have lunch with Miranda Bryant, then I've got to be able to wear it. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

don't mourn the can't, instead love the can

(welcome to the blog, if you've never been here... I'd love for you to visit Clouds in My Coffee on Facebook--you'll know its me cause I have a Mickey Mug picture!  Like the page, if you dare.  And visit the similar links at the bottom of this post.  Thanks for reading)

Another late night stream of consciousness, this time, about autism and its joys...

Here's the thing about Autism. It sucks. It really does. 
I can say that, being a parent of a 2 year old who was diagnosed last year, and us only beginning to see the effect it has on our son.

Here are some things that a normal typical 2 year old can do that our son does not do. Can't do. Won't do... us things upon request
...engages in pretend play
...uses 50 or more recognizable words in talking
...asks "what's that?" and "why?"
...points to body parts like ears, nose and eyes upon request
...draws lines with a crayon
...walks up the stairs using railings

And also, he can't say "Mommy" or "Daddy". He can't say "wuv you" to us. Our two year old has the developmental skills of a 10 month old. And its tough.

We met with a therapist tonight who works with autistic children... and she really gave us a good rundown of what we are doing right (some), what we are doing wrong (some), and what we need to be doing going forward (a lot).

But she did toss in this little nugget: "He's not severe... he'll be fine with some work."
Besides development, its a sensory thing too... when the TV is on the wrong channel, and its just a big blue screen, he can't handle it and freaks out... he has musical toys he puts right up to his ears and walks around so he can hear the music... we were told that when you walk down a hallway at a brisk pace, and feel the wind on your arms as you walk--he doesn't feel that... or at least, he doesn't know he does, because his brain doesn't know how to understand his senses... as quick as he tries to eat, we aren't sure he can even taste some things he eats, because we aren't sure his taste buds are connecting with his brain yet... its a weird thing.

I find it a little heart tugging that my own son cannot tell his Mom and Dad that he loves us, or that he can even say "Mama" or "Daddy"... and I watch The Lovely Steph Leann sometimes, when we are out with friends who have kids of the same age, kids who are talking a mile a minute, kids who are asking questions, kids who are far and away beyond where Campbell Isaiah is right now... The Lovely Steph Leann's face has this look of conflicted joy (watching our friends' children be so alive, so vibrant, so smart) and sadness (a want of what those kids have to be displayed in Campbell). I know this look on her face, for I feel it too.

And yet, we are blessed... many other autistic children as far below where Campbell's development is. Our son has more opportunities than some children will ever have, and more hope for a better future.

That still doesn't take away the sadness of what we want him to be right now.

But then, that's selfish, isn't it? What WE want HIM to be? 

Could it be... or how about, it IS that Campbell is exactly who God wants him to be right now...

It's when we realize that young Campbell Isaiah is who he is for God's glory. God's ultimate glory is to glorify Himself, and what is best for us is to glorify Him. Campbell will be used to glorify God now, and in the future. We know it.

We then have the power to step back, and stop mourning the things Campbell cannot do... and start celebrating the things he can do, start reveling in the things he does every day...

...give kisses to us when we take his pacifier out
...climb up in your lap and just lay back and watch TV
...roll a big red ball all over the floor, giggling and laughing as you roll it back to him
...dip peas out of his bowl, shoveling them into his mouth just about any fruit or vegetable you put in front of him
...sing along in a high pitched wail when he feels the urge
...fill a diaper like you wouldn't believe... wait, that probably is not a good example...
...give you high fives upon request WWE Raw with Daddy and love it... wait... no, that was a great example...

Perhaps these are all things that any normal typical two year old would do.  For us?  Many of them are milestones to be cheered and adorned. 

Campbell has Autism. Autism doesn't have Campbell. He's not severe. He'll be just fine, with some work.

(That sounded like the world's worst bumper sticker... terrible...)
Also, check out my friend Alanna's blogpost "GENIUS", in which she writes, better actually, on the same topic concerning her family and her son Aiden, who is on the Autism spectrum.

Here are other links on our autism journey with Campbell...

Learning the A-Word, written right before his diagnosis (8/22/13)
The Journey Begins with a Grin, a sweet story of Campbell, letting us know it'll be alright (8/24/13)
My Kid Has the Autism, written a week after his diagnosis (8/29/13)
To Campbell on His 2nd Birthday, my second birthday letter (12/4/13)

(8,631 words written for #20KWords in March... 11,369 to go)

Sunday, March 09, 2014

honeymoon with the mouse

Someone asked me about honeymoons in Disney, so I thought this would be a good blog subject...

So, you are wondering where to honeymoon, and Disney is coming to mind... or maybe looking to make a couples retreat for an anniversary... why would you do that? What on earth would such a kids place have to offer you?

Tons. In fact, here are some reasons why you should go to Walt Disney World on your honeymoon...

First... Dreading getting lots of china you'll never see after you box it up, much less eat off of? You can create a Disney Honeymoon Registry and ask people to give there instead to help you along your journey to the Magic.

If you want the full experience, you can obviously get married there... its a bit steep, but you can have a wedding at The Grand Floridian Wedding Pavilion... or United Kingdom Gardens in Epcot... perhaps the bridge area between The Boardwalk and The Swan & Dolphin Hotels.

You create the honeymoon experience you and significant other want. If you are thrill seekers, you can hit the parks all day every day, having a blast riding rides together, like Everest or Space Mountain or Toy Story Mania, or perhaps get chosen at the Indiana Jones Stunt spectacular as extras (like The Lovely Steph Leann and I did on our honeymoon!) and you're guaranteed to have someone to hold onto on the Hollywood Tower of Terror...

...or, if you are both more laid back, then stroll through World Showcase, hand in hand. Go in the spring and enjoy the Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot; go in the fall, and have fun eating around the world at the Food & Wine Festival. Christmastime is always beautiful at Disney parks, or go in the late winter, or late summer, when crowds aren't so thick--and in the late summer, take in a water park together. 

One of you a thrill seeker and the other a little laid back? Then, its time to start compromising! A valuable marriage lesson... ha!

Next, there are so, so many things to do together as couples, some fun, some fun and romantic. Take a segueway tour together through Fort Wilderness... maybe go backstage at Animal Kingdom and walk above a crocodile pool on the Wild Africa Trek... take any number of walking tours together... get a couples massage at The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa...

Finally, make sure EVERYONE knows its your honeymoon... when you book (or better yet, when you have me book) your Disney package, have it noted on your account that it's your honeymoon. Get Mickey & Minnie ears to wear, or buttons declaring "Bride" and "Groom", so everyone will see. No guarantees, but because Disney LOVES Honeymooners, sometimes you'll get room upgrades, sometimes perks like free desserts, sometimes special seating for events... there is nothing better than great seating for Disney's Wishes Fireworks spectacular while having an arm around the one you're starting that day to spend the rest of your life with.

Worried about cost? Yes, actually getting married at Disney can be a bit pricey (though I would venture to guess it's about as much as a fairly nice wedding here), the honeymoon can really fit any budget. I would say be ready to splurge a bit, but it doesn't have to break you!

I will say, though, I highly, highly recommend staying on-site... you can stay in a surrounding hotel and save some money, but the money you save might not make up for the parking fees you'd have to pay, the loss of having a dining plan at your disposal, the chance to use Disney FastPass+, the package delivery of things you buy in the park, and the overall convenience and magic of just being immersed in the World.

I've been there... I remember how exhausting our wedding was. It was a blast, sharing that moment with friends and family, but leading up to it, and the day of, we were both just wiped out. The stress, the planning, the event itself, the lack of eating at the reception (I got none of my groom's cake, which I heard was amazing)... when you finally get away, it's wonderful. No one to call you, no one to call, no one to bother you, just the two of you together, far away... and there's no better place to escape the world than to be in The World of Walt Disney. It's one the Top 10 Honeymoon destinations on Earth for a good reason...

And yes, I've planned honeymoons before, and can help you there.  And all of the above goes just as well--if not better--for anniversaries too!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

kenny weeks & wall street football

One of my tasks this year is to be more encouraging to people, part of my PIKE way of life that I've created, owned and adopted... and in that, I made it a point to go onto Facebook and anyone having a birthday on the little birthday calendar thing, I put a personal note on their page to say Happy Birthday.  And I seldom just say "Happy Birthday", I try to add something to it, to make it a little more personal so people know I'm not just copying and pasting that phrase over and over. 

Sometimes, a name will pop up that I am very good friends with, and I'll add a few lines, make a joke or whatever.  Other times, it might be someone I haven't spoken to in a long, long time, and so I'll say something about the time its been, or that I hope they are well and so on.  Just to make it personal.

Tonight, I came across the name "Kenny Weeks".  Kenny is turning 44 today... I had to dig into my high school yearbook to verify, but that puts him in the Class of 1988.  And that puts me in 7th grade when he was a senior.  For those reading this from Samson, its the yearbook that says "Just the Right Year" on it, with the painted tiger, the corner pic of the high school, and the words "SAMSONIAN" emblazoned across the front.  In this book that is no more than a 125 pages max, you'll see student pics from the seniors all the way to the kindergarten. 

What's fun about flipping through a yearbook like this is you kinda recognize a few names on Facebook, with a "Oh... THAT is who that is... geez... woulda never gotten that."  The senior class included names like Missy Ausley... Lydia Phillips (lovely girl, but has a total 1988 hair do with a complete Simba mane)... Shane Bowdoin... this was a class heavy on attractive people, I gotta tell ya.  I was always a Lisa Bradshaw fan myself, but I honestly do not believe I was the one who wrote the word "FINE" over her yearbook pic... for starters, its not my handwriting, plus, I would be way too afraid she would see it.  I guess its safe now, though.

Back to Kenny.

Kenny was a stocky guy, kind of a soft voice, seemed like a good guy... as a matter of fact, something happened in 6th grade that made me always think he was a good guy. 

One of those random acts of kindness, kind of like the one that my schoolmate Shanna Nowling did for me, as chronicled here(if you haven't read that post, go ahead and read it. its one of my favorites in the last year or so)

Our high school was small, and in 1987, it was kind of run down... at that time, we had a high school in a larger building, and the junior high (back then, it was "junior high", not "middle school", in the same way it was "junior college" not "community college".  it was a simpler time) was a smaller building kinda off to the side.  It had classrooms that were not even used, and in complete disarray... a set of steep steps coming up to the center hall, and a dilapidated auxiliary building that I eventually took 8th grade civics class in with Mr. Weeks.  That's Danny Weeks, not Kenny Weeks, though I'm unsure of any relation.

My thinking was I was in 6th grade for this story, but I actually think I was in 7th... anyway, you come out of the junior high building in the back, and it opens up to a huge courtyard area--a pleasant way of saying a big dirt road.  Across that area you get to the baseball field, and during PE class on a hot 1987 fall day, the boys were sent out to the baseball field to do whatever it is we did during PE. 

Let me stop here and explain something... I was a scrawny, tiny little runt of a dude.  I was chased around in 6th grade by Shane Gillis and Drew Snell, and in 7th, was scared to death of Sambo Cade... that's not a racist remark, people actually called him "Sambo".  Like, I probably developed my sense of humor, good or bad, as a defense.  If you were going to chase me, I'd at least get a good zinger in. Years later, much of this hasn't changed, which is probably a bad thing.

Anyway, it goes without saying, sports were not my thing.  I was still about 4 years away from learning tennis, I had no understanding of football or baseball or basketball other than the sportscards I collected--and still have--and so every day, PE was torture for me.  Cause I couldn't do anything, and I literally was the last person picked in team sports just about every day.

My friend Greg was a big dude, so he was slower, but in games like dodgeball or even tackle football, he was picked ahead of me. 

Do they even do team lineups and picking teams and such now?  I mean, it seems like a mean thing to do to a kid, but looking back, so what?  I did just fine.  Anyway.

So, on this day,  the guys get out there, myself included.  I'm already sweating, cause its south Alabama in the early fall, the baseball field, not really needed until January for ball practice, wasn't mowed well, so there were weeds everywhere and I had bugs on me and maybe chiggers...

(do we think that "chiggers" is a racist term in the bug world?  like, chiggers can say "chigger" but other bugs like ants or grasshoppers can't dare say it?  just curious.)

...and it was miserable.  That day, there was a group of guys on the Samson High football team out there running a scrimmage... I say that, but they actually were just tossing the ball, running some plays, who knows why they were there.  Kenny Weeks was one of them. 

For whatever reason, I cannot tell you why and it really doesn't matter for the purposes of this story, the seven or eight football players asked 7th grade us to join them in playing some ball.  Now, I was truly one of the littlest guys out there, but there were some guys with some size to them, guys that went on to play in high school themselves... not me, though.

Of course, I was one of the last guys to be assigned a side, though if I remember it correctly, we didn't actually play a game, the high school guys just kind of directed us young folk where to go and what to do, to help them run plays and all...

And in my sweat and misery, I remember making the comment of, and this is paraphrasing, but this is almost perfectly right, "this is about as fun as eating a bowl of Fruity Pebbles and reading the Wall Street Journal." (note: I misquoted myself when I first posted this column--as I lay in bed an hour later, it came to be exactly what I said, which is what you read now, as I corrected it)  I said this because I felt so out of place and stupid for not knowing what a fullback was, or what an end tackle was supposed to do.  I mean, where were we supposed to learn this stuff?

When I said that, a few of the guys laughed, older and younger.  My friend Chris McCall was just like me, not a sportsy guy, but he was a lot more popular than I was, so he could coast on that.  Not so for me.  So when I made all of them laugh, it kinda made me feel good and all...

So Kenny Weeks called me "Wall Street" while we were out there.  He would say "Hey Wall Street, make sure you cover Jason" or "Ok, Wall Street, when I hike the ball..." or whatever.  I actually thought it was a badge of honor... I mean, Kenny was a popular cat, so it was really cool to be recognized like such.

A little while later, the game broke up, guys started walking away, our grade's PE was almost over, and Kenny asked me, "So, Wall Street, you don't like football, huh?"  I just shrugged and said, "I don't really know how to play it.  So its hard, cause I don't know what I'm doing."

Now, he could have been condescending and made a joke.  He could have said, "That's too bad, man," and walked away.  Kenny could have even said, "Its not hard.  You should learn it."

But no.  Here's what he actually did...

"Heads up," he said, tossing me the ball lightly, so I could--and did--catch it.  He asked me to throw it back to him, and I kinda sorta did in a haphazard way, as it flopped through the air.

"Come here, let me show you this," he motioned.  I walked over, and Kenny Weeks, high school senior, guy who not only was popular but actually probably talked to Lisa Bradshaw on a regular basis, gave me a 2 minute lesson on how to toss a football.  Fingers on laces, let it roll off the hand, release like this, here you try it, not bad, try it again, that's pretty good, here catch...

I know it was only a few minutes, nothing more, as time was winding down and we all had places to be... but I remember that.  I remember that act of kindness... that act of someone much older, in a much higher position in my eyes taking the time to not just talk to me, but talk to me in a way that I wasn't beneath him, that I wasn't behind him in age, but that I was his peer.  He talked to me as if we were both buddies in the same class.

So, happy 44th birthday, Kenny Weeks. 

And another lesson in kindness to you all... the big stuff usually gets remembered, sometimes.  But there are so many little things that mean more, because they are so little, yet so impactful.  You don't know when your little act of kindness will still be talked about 27 years later. 

(7182 words written for #20KWords in March... 12,818 words to go)

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

big dreams i want to dream

(this is what happens when i freestyle my dream thought process)

i want to dream.

is that okay? to dream?

i want to be someone who dreams. who dreams, then follows those dreams, attack those dreams, make those dreams into something tangible and then sit back and look at my dreams that are now realities.

i want to dream.

sometimes i want to be like anne hathaway channeling her best fantine and sing "i dreamed a dream of days gone by", only without the sadness of the past, and much more positivity in the future. 

i want to dream.

would it be cliché to say "i had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee"? maybe you'd think i was just so vain.

i want to dream.

what happens when i dream?

i see myself doing what i love when i dream. i see a future called walt disney world, a place full of dreams and magic and celebration. i see myself planning that magic for families to take what might be a once in a lifetime trip. i see me helping those families make it magical, make it awesome... make it Magical Awesome.

i want to dream.

you say "but d$, you do this anyway..." and i respond "sure... but not full time." i see a dream of days spent chasing disney full time. not working anywhere but where i am. my location is my office, be it in front of a laptop or out meeting a family to discuss whether the dining plan is right for them, or if they should consider two rooms at pop century or one family suite at art of animation.

i want to dream.

a full time disney travel planner. i give myself two years to make this a reality. to be in a position that we are secure, we are sound, we are ready to make the leap of faith if that is truly where He is leading up. 

i want to dream.

i see two websites. this one, clouds in my coffee, coming on nine years and one thousand posts, continually being updated. the writing better and better, the words richer and deeper, the content funnier, smarter, and somewhere people want to go to read, to be entertained..

to be encouraged. to be encouraged for themselves to dream.

i want to dream.

the other site is a disney site. a multi purpose disney site, that people can visit for news. for updates. for disney travel ideas and for fun. for movies for music. for disney magic. for magic. for awesome. for Magical Awesome.

i want to dream.

i dream that in a few short weeks, this site will be located in a better place, more streamlined, less cluttered.

i dream that in a few short weeks, my disney site's foundation will be laid. perhaps a year away from a full dream site, for now just a start. that's how we finish. we start first. 

i want to dream.

apropos of nothing, i also dream of how good pre-crack whitney houston was. is. it's who I'm listening to as i type, and when she belts out "i have nothing" it warms my cockles.
cockles is a funny word.

i want to dream.

i dreamt of writing a humorous book on autism. do i still dream that? i'm not sure. but what if i found other ways to support campbell and the community we live in? what if we did monologues? what if i wrote a play? what if we acted out? what if we danced? what if we started something from the ground up to give to families who deal with autism? what if?

i dream of being debt free again, including the house this time. what would we do with all of our extra money? bigger house, i'm sure. or a vacation club home. at disney. of course. 

i dream of finally seeing every movie on afi's top 100 films of all time, and i dream of listing my favorite 500 films of all time on this site. 

i dream of being asked to be on podcasts that i know people host, even if only to share my knowledge of film, music and the comings and goings of paul rudd and amy adams, whom i'm in love with.

i dream of being important. of leaving a legacy. 

i dream of knowing how to do something so well, being so good at something, that when that topic is brought up, my name is mentioned as "no one does it as well as d$".

in an email he sent on monday, writer jon acuff dared us to dream big. he dared us to dream of things that would take years to fulfill. that would not be nearly started, much less finished, in a months time. in two months. in six months.

i want to dream.

its late. are my ramblings of dreams a result of being up so late? maybe. maybe not. 

will you help me dream? will you dream with me? what are your own dreams?

i have a facebook site. its called disney on a dollar. its magical. its awesome. its Magical Awesome. will you "like" it? and will you interact?

i dreamed of a "magical movie madness" activity, where you could vote on your favorite disney movies every day in a "bracket", with movies going head to head--you just comment on which one you like better. i started that today. 

do you want to help? visit my facebook page and like. share. vote. that will help me. and you can win stuff too. starting next week, people who vote get entered to win disney swag. so really, you are only helping yourself by being awesome. help me be awesome and be awesome yourself.

so to recap... i dream...

...of planning disney vacations full time
...of moving my current site to a better host
...of creating a disney website as a foundation of something bigger soon
...that you will like my disney facebook page and participate in our movie madness
...that i can make an impact in the autism community

and other stuff.

maybe it will work. maybe it will fail. but its my little dream to start with. to build. to establish. to brand. 

but i want to dream. i dare to dream. i want to harness these dreams and make them real. make them something. maybe they will work, maybe they won't work, but the dreams that are guaranteed to be unfulfilled are those dreams that are never chased at all. 

did i just say that? profound.

let's dream.

And use some capitalization for once. Awesome. 

(5486 words written for #20KWords in March... 14,514 to go...)

Sunday, March 02, 2014

the 2014 oscars running diary

Okay... so first things first. BLOGGER SUCKS. I'm working on a way to switch to WordPress, but that isn't going to do me any good right now...

And that means that the formatting here will be all kinds of jacked up, to' up from the flo' up. Lots of random spacing, so please just be patient. I'll fix it as I can.

And as usual, I'm putting the latest update on the bottom.

So, without further Ado.... The Academy Awards, 2014...

730... Its America's Favorite Lesbian, Ellen DeGeneres! 

732p... The Lovely Steph Leann laughed heartily at Ellen's old joke about June Squibb... I'm waiting to laugh. I'm hoping it comes soon.

733p... Calling out a Liza Minnelli impersonator... it was the real Liza. Now THAT is funny.

735p... Amy Adams sighting. Sigh. Heart beating fast.

735p... Oh hush. When Colin Firth comes on screen, The Lovely Steph restraints herself from licking the screen.

736p... Even with a Beiber haircut, Jennifer Lawrence looks good...

737p... Half the women I know wishes their hair could be as silky smooth as Jared Leto

739p... Ellen's monologue. Amusing, but safe. 

740p... Anne Hathaway out to do the Best Supporting Actor Award!  I wonder if she's thinking, "I'm being judged on my horrible Oscar hosting duties with Jimmy Franco, after everyone just saw Ellen kill it..."  I picked Jared Leto as the winner here, though how much would I love to see Bradley Cooper get this. 

742p... When a cross dressing dude sings "I'm pretty" while putting on makeup, I immediately think of Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs

742p... Jared Leto, Oscar Winner, Supporting Actor. I'm 1-0 for the night.

745p... Is it just me, or are they giving Jared Leto like, forever to speak? Is it because he's discussing transgender AIDS?

746p... Ellen just did a selfie live on stage. I went to follow her on Twitter, and it shut down on me...

747p... Jim Carrey, who has never been nominated (he deserved it for The Truman Show) says, "It must be tiring to be a nominee..." Hilarious.   Honestly, I'm not sure if he'll ever win an Oscar, unless he has a once-in-a-lifetime performance... like, Matthew McConaughey...

He introduces animated Heroes, with "Heroes" being the theme tonight... Mr Incredible was first, as he should be.

750p... I just saw Dax Shepard. How did Dax Shepard get into the Oscar seating? As a seat filler?  (later I remembered that he's married to Kristen Bell... so that's how he gets there...)

750p... Pharrell is up to perform "Happy" from Despicable Me 2, a song nominated for Best Song.

751p.... The Lovely Steph Leann: What kind of hat is THAT? 

754p... I think Meryl shimmied better than Amy Adams, but I'm in love with the latter, so she wins anyway.

755p... This tweet from @RickyBrigante: So how long before there's a Pixar Theory that Pharrell is Andy's dad and gave him the hat?

757p... From the "Everyone predicted this pair" department, its Samuel L Jackson and Naomi Watts

Why Ellen didn't introduce him as Laurence Fishburne, I'll never know.  Unless he was too ticked off about it still... maybe she should have just said, "Its the BMF"

The award is Costume Design... I picked American Hustle. The Oscar goes to? The Great Gatsby. I'm 1-1 so far.

8p... Now, Makeup and Hairstyling... I picked Dallas Buyers Club... The Oscar goes to? Dallas Buyers Club. At 2-1, I felt like that was a lock.

802p... That British narrator saying "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" somehow gives it 0.02% more legitimacy...

802p... Harrison Ford, Hollywood's real life version of Grumpy Cat, is out to introduce American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club and The Wolf of Wall Street as the first three of nine Best Picture nominees.

805p... That sound you hear is all the women in the country swooning. Channing Tatum just took the stage.

807p... Judy Greer in an OJ commercial? What? What the what? I freakin' love Judy Greer... one of my favorite actresses... how did she end up in an OJ commercial?

810p... Ellen is getting funnier as this night goes on...

811p.... Kim Novak, for the 30 and up group, is in the "she's still alive?" category... fpr the younger set, its a "Who is Kim Novak and why does she look all freaky weird?" category.

812... Kim is out with Matthew McConaughey to announce Best Animated Short... which didn't go to Get a Horse, the Mickey Mouse short that I naturally picked. It went to Mr Hublot, whatever that is. I'm 2-2 for the night.
814p... I'm mildly amused at the French guy's hands shaking while giving his speech... thats how you know he's legit and actually honored and surprised.

814p... Best Animated Feature Film! It goes to Frozen... Kim Novak tried to make it suspenseful, but I think we all knew this. At 3-2, its time to go on a run!!

816p... Ellen makes more jokes, and brings out Sally Field, who is out to intro a montage of "everyday heroes"

819p... In this montage, I've already seen like, 7 movies in my #Dave100, and another 4 or 5 in my #TheDave500...

820p... JoGo Levitt and Emma Watson! Hermione is an Oscar Presenter! Out to give Best Visual Effects, of which I picked Gravity, of which it wins! 4-2... I picked Gravity to take many of these technical awards

823p... Every girl that was 14 five years ago is now swooning with Zac Efron on stage... he's introducing, and stumbling all over his words, the theme from "Her".  Talk about "That Awkward Moment"...

828p... I just saw The Muppets in one commercial, followed by Tina Fey in another. I'm so blessed to be me.

830p... Ellen sits with a guitar, coming back from break, then introduce Jason Sudeikis and Kate Hudson... that looks like a bit that got cancelled at the last minute

830p... Live Action Short Film. I picked "Helium". And the Oscar goes to "Helium"!!! 5-2... I'm rolling now, baby.

832p... The winner just thanked "My fella nomineeth..."

833p... Best Documentary, short subject... I went with Prison Terminal... and the Oscar goes to... The Lady in #6. Boo. Back to 5-3.

835p... John Stamos sighting!

835p... Ellen back in the audience. Walking around, talking to various celebrities. Ellen offers to order pizza, and all the celebs raise their hand for some. Then she intros Bradley Cooper...

836p... I remember when Bradley Cooper was that guy from Wet Hot American Summer... he's out to introduce Documentary Feature. The Oscar goes to 20 Feet from Stardom, and I picked it just right... 6-3 for the night.

839p... Darlene Love, from 20 Feet from Stardom just threw down on The Sparrow... a gospel tune... Bill Murray was the first up for a Standing O... Boom. 

840p... Kevin Spacey out now for a previous ceremony jibber jabber.

842p... Why aren't we watching an entire Steve Martin tribute? Instead of just this clip show of tributes to him and Angela Lansbury and others...

847p... The Lovely Steph Leann is mad with me that I won't pause the show for her to give little Campbell Isaiah a bath. The Oscars wait for no one!

848p... Viola Davis and Ewan McGregor out for Best Film Ain't From 'Merica... I chose Italy's "The Great Beauty"... the clip looks like a winner to me. 

849p... And the Oscar goes to? "The Great Beauty", like I... uh, I uh... knew it would. Either way, 7-3 so far!

851p... Tyler Perry comes out to introduce another Best Picture nominee, "Nebraska", then "Her" and finally "Gravity".

853p... Shouldn't Tyler Perry come out as Madea and introduce Dallas Buyers Club?

854p... Ellen comes out in her best BeeGees outfit, and introduces Brad Pitt, who introduces U2, singing a song from a Mandela movie...

...sidebar... I might be the only one in the world to say this... but I don't think Mandela was that great of a dude... he favored socialism, he disliked America and he wasn't that nice of a guy. Just sayin'. Back to the Oscars...

858p.... @hlpatterson just tweeted:       

I haven't seen the movie Gravity but I saw Space Camp in 1986, so I get the main idea


901p... Also... I don't think U2 is as great as they are made out to be..

902p... Ellen back in the audience. She does a selfie with herself and Liza Minnelli, makes a L'pata/Pizza joke, then goes to Meryl to take another selfie, asking for a retweet record on Twitter. She then invites Julia Roberts, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Angelina and others to join in the pic... I'm Retweeting that right now.

904p... Michael B. Jordan and Kristen Bell come out to intro the pre-ceremony Techie awards. They sound like they are actually interested, but we know they aren't.

905p... Ellen brings out Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron... Charlize's dress looks like the devil, but she still looks amazing. Here's the Oscar for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing... I picked Gravity on both...

907p... Charlize pronounces "Smaug" as "Smowg". Makes me laugh. Gravity wins one of the two... I'm at 8-3 now.

910p... Gravity wins again, to put me at 9-3. I don't think I've gotten more than 13 right in like, four years... I'm rollin...

911p... Christoph Waltz, two time Oscar winner, to give out Supporting Actress Award. I picked Jennifer Lawrence to win, though Lupita Nyong'o for 12 Years a Slave is the front runner...

914p... And the Oscar goes to... Lupita. First time nominee, first time winner, and she gets a standing ovation from the crowd and hug from Liza Minnelli. 

918p... That was a great Oscar speech, Lupita. Not kidding.

921p... And the pizza arrives! Ellen brings Pizza Boy into the audience, and starts handing out slices... Brad Pitt starts handing out paper plates, and Ellen says, "Kerry Washington is pregnant! She needs some food!"  (we find out later that this pizza guy was real, the shop is real, and he got paid for delivering pizza...)

923p... The President of the Academy comes out to talk about whatever it is they talk about, as I don't really listen. Except they are building a spaceship as a movie museum.


926p... Amy Adams (whom I'm in love with) is with Bill Murray for Cinematography... I picked Gravity. Bill gives a huge nod to Harold Ramis too...

927p... And the Oscar goes to... Gravity. I'm at 10-4!

929p... Gabourey Sidibe and Anna Kendrick (swoon) are out for Film Editing... I chose American Hustle on this one... and Gravity gets this one too... dang it. 10-5. I think this is where the wheels come off.

932p... Whoopi, Oscar winner for #TheDave500 film "Ghost", is out to discuss "The Wizard of Oz"... so that's why Liza has been so prevalent...

933p... The Lovely Steph Leann: Whoopi... oh, she looks terrible.

934p... P!nk out to sing a salute to The Wizard of Oz... what.

942p... Ellen comes out dressed as Glinda the Good Witch... hahaha... and now she brings out Jennifer Garner and Benedict Cumberbatch

943p... Jenny and Benny are here to present Production Design... I picked American Hustle. And the winner is The Great Gatsby. I fall to 10-6...

946p... Chris Evans is out here to tell us more Hero tales... Harry Potter... The Searchers... Men in Black... Lord of the Rings.. Star Trek... Jaws.... love this.

953p... "Multiple Oscar Nominee" (re: can't win it) Glenn Close comes out, to give us the In Memoriam

957p... In Memoriam was rough this year... Harold Ramis... Philip Seymour Hoffman... Sid Caesar... Paul Walker... Hal Needham... man.

10p... Bette Midler singing "Wind Beneath My Wings". Why didn't they just let her sing this while showing the pics? 

1001p... Are Bette Midler's eyes dilated? Is that why she can't open them?

1004p... Ellen, all in black now, back in bragging about crashing Twitter, in the BEST SELFIE EVER. That was a fantastic segment...

1004p... Goldie Hawn is out now to present the final three Best Pic noms... "Philomena", "12 Years a Slave" and "Captain Phillips".

1005p... I was just about to say "Goldie looks nice", when The Lovely Steph Leann says, "She looks really horrible..."

1008p... Two time Oscar nom John Travolta is out now to present the song "Let It Go", sung by Idina Menzel. Who did John Travolta just say?  Adele Dazim???

1012p... Jamie Foxx and Jessica Biel out now, ready to give out the music awards... apparently the teleprompter is giving a little trouble to the presenters. Jamie being funny by scatting Chariots of Fire. Best Score award, I picked Gravity... the Oscar goes to Gravity... finally, get another win for myself tonight, now at 11-6...

1016p... If Let It Go doesn't win this, it will be a huge upset... not to many times has U2 winning been an upset... The Oscar goes to "Let It Go" from Frozen. As it should. 12-6.

1019p... By the way, Idina Menzel and Three Six Mafia have Best Song Oscars. U2 has zero. Just a note.

1023p... Ellen has Pharrell's hat and is asking for donations for the pizza guy... El Oh El.

1023p... Robert DeNiro and Penelope Cruz come out together to give Oscars for writing... Best Adapted Screenplay... I actually picked Wolf of Wall Street. I'm a dolt.

1024p... And the Oscar goes to... 12 Years a Slave. 12-7. 

1026p... For Original Screenplay... I picked Her. It should win, anyway... the winner is HER!!! Finally, hit 13 wins, 7 losses so far...

1028p... Its the only one HER will win... but I'll take it. Spike Jonze deserves this one for a wonderful, original film. 

1031p... By the way Adele Dazim already has a twitter account. Just saying.

1032p... Angelina Jolie and a true icon, Sidney Poitier out to present. He's the man. And deserved the standing ovation he just got.

1032p... The Oscar for Best Director is here... I went with Alfonso Cuaron, which is the probative favorite. The Oscar goes to... Cuaron for Gravity. 14-7, I am guaranteed to finish over .500, which is nice.

1036p... My wife just informs me that she has met Sidney Poitier and has his autograph. What? 

1038p... Ellen trying to wrap up comically... by the time the show is over, they'll have to do the In Memoriam over to show June Squibb and Bruce Dern.

1041p... Ellen in the audience talking to Matthew McConaughey about weight loss... and then, Daniel Day-Lewis.

1041p... Best Actress nominees... of course, I want Amy Adams, whom I'm in love with, to win. However, I think Cate Blanchett will get it, so I picked her. 

1044p... And the Oscar goes to... Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine. In her speech she gives mad props to everyone, especially Amy Adams, whom I'm in love with.

1046p... Cate can go from hideous to gorgeous from movie to movie. That's quite a feat.

1048p... Ellen brings out Jennifer Lawrence to give Best Actor... though I picked Chiwetel Ejiofor to win... looks like Dave Wooderson will get the Oscar

1051p... And the Oscar goes to... Matthew McConaughey. Did I just write that?

1055p... Ellen now ends the show with introducing Will Smith, who will presumably give out Best Picture

1056p... And 12 Years a Slave wins the Oscar for Best Picture.

1058p... So, I wrap up at 16-8 for the year. Sigh. Better year, but one away from winning my Oscar pool... my record all time was like, 20-4 or something, but I haven't seen that in a long, long time. Boo.

So there you are... Ellen, I want you back as Oscar host. The Selfie stole the show... great show...

This is the greatest selfie in the history of Selfiedom.  The black dude on
the right side is Lupita's little brother, Junior... and Kevin Spacey's face in
the very back is my absolute favorite of all time. 
(4374 words written for #20KWords for March... 15,626 to go)

Saturday, March 01, 2014

my all time favorite albums... 71 to 60

Starting March with another #500Words per day goal... now, its impossible for me to write every single day, so I try to just average it out... and like January, my goal is #20KWords for the month. I missed my 15K goal in February, ending up with only around 10,616. So yeah, I kinda failed. But its a good failure, one that really doesn't mean much to anyone but me, and drives me to not fail again. So there. 

And what to write about tonight? While watching "A Few Good Men", which is a nearly flawless movie, I remembered that I was doing a little series last summer, a series I started when I got my new love for blogging... my Favorite 100 Albums of All Time... I only got three parts into it, but hey, there's no time to pick it up like now, huh?

The Introduction
My 100th to 91st favorite albums
My 90th to 81st favorite albums
My 80th to 71st favorite albums

"Fairweather Johnson" by Hootie & the Blowfish (1998)... To say I'm a Hootie fan is an understatement... I love Darius Rucker and the guys, and their sound.  It would be silly to put all of their albums, including later releases like "Musical Chairs", "Looking for Lucky" and "Scattered, Covered, Smothered" on this list, because while all good, none catch my fancy like the first two.  We'll get to the other one later, but for now, "Fairweather Johnson" is a worthy follow up to their first major release... even though it went 2x platinum, its often considered a failure because their first CD was marginally better.  You know, it was 16x platinum and is the 16th best selling album of all time.  But "Fairweather Johnson" is just splendid... "Old Man & Me(when I get to Heaven)" is the lead off single, but "Silly Little Pop Song" is great, "Sad Caper" is solid, and the uncomfortably titled "Honeyscrew" is fun and my favorite, "Tucker's Town" is awesome.

"Speechless" by Steven Curtis Chapman (1999)... Its hard to be a Christ Follower and not respect Steven Curtis Chapman.  He's released over 20 studio albums in his time, had nearly 50 #1 hits in Christian radio, and has boo-koodles of awards lining his shelf.  It starts off with a bang, with the rollicking "Dive", getting you in the Spirit, then continues to the title track, "Speechless", a song that wonders and awes at God's amazing creation.  The challenges continue, with "The Change"... "The Invitation"... "Be Still and Know"... and a great song, perhaps my favorite, that honors those around you who are fellow Christ Followers, "Fingerprints of God".  Its worthy to note that there was a 3+ year separation between this, and his previous studio album, "Signs of Life"... after Signs, he took a sabbatical, and "Speechless" was the result of a 3 year prayer.  And it was worth it.  Title track is my favorite.

"Underdog" by Audio Adrenaline (1999)... Sometimes when I was doing research for this list, I stumble across other albums I forgot ("Hysteria" by Def Leppard was the final album added)... and one in particular is "Some Kind of Zombie", the hard rockin' CD from AA that preceded "Underdog".  In an interview with bassist Will McGinness, he mentioned the "Bloom", their 3rd album, was one that the studios kinda wanted them to do... the rock out style of "Some Kind of Zombie" was the band taking it to the far extreme... and "Underdog" was exactly how they wanted to sound.  And oh, it sounds so great.  "A Mighty Good Leader" is great to kick off, with the title track, then "Get Down", the lead-off single from the CD.  Its great all the way through, never too heavy, but meaningful enough to be meaningful (yes, I meant to say that)... my favorite, though, is this incredible version of "It Is Well With My Soul", feature accompanying vocals from Jennifer Knapp... so, so good.

"Tuesday Night Music Club" by Sheryl Crow (1993)... So, yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the release date of Sheryl's debut.  Twenty years?  Holy crap.  The name is derived from the group of musicians that would meet on Tuesdays to work on this album, and though it was released in 1993, it was the second single, "All I Want To Do" that catapulted Sheryl into the limelight. Even though this came in 1993, it was Spring '94 that I really caught onto Sheryl Crow's awesomeness... sitting in SAGA (the dining hall) with Erin and Kate Gates and Alison and Jared and whatshisname that always wore the plaid hat, jamming to "All I Want to Do" or "Leaving Las Vegas"... fun times.  My favorite tracks are probably "Can't Cry Anymore" or the unreleased "The Na-Na Song"

"One Day Live" by Passion (2000)... here's what I love about this CD... I was there.  For a whole day, 50,000 of my closest Christ Following friends all jammed together in a field on a farm in Tennessee, to hear the sounds of Chris Tomlin and Christy Nockel and Matt Redman and Candi Pearson all sing worship, and to hear the likes of Voddie Bochum and John Piper and Beth Moore and Louie Giglio all speak their thoughts of praise and knowledge of The Sword.  It was one of the Top 10 or 15 most memorable, most meaningful days of my entire life.  And its funny to run across someone that I know now that was there, when I didn't know them.  I love Christy Nockels, the cute part of the duo Watermark, but Candi Pearson's "One Pure and Holy Passion" takes my breath away.

"The End of the Innocence" by Don Henley (1989)...  There are three songs that this album is built upon--"The Heart of the Matter", "The Last Worthless Evening" and the title song--but all around, its a great set of Don Henley jams.  The Eagles drummer rocks out with "I Will Not Go Quietly" (featuring Axl Rose) and mellows out in "A New York Minute", but its those three that I mentioned that make this whole ride worth it. 

I remember working overnights at WKMX in Enterprise, Alabama, and I'd be the only person in the entire building from about 11pm to about 5 or 6am.  This is before the practice of setting your playlist on computer, then letting it run all night--called Voicetracking--this is back when you had actual DJs in the studio.  And when one needed a bathroom run, you could play "The Heart of the Matter", "The Last Worthless Evening" or "The End of the Innocence", and it would give you a good 6 minutes of time for whatever. 

And for the record, I was the guy who played the full version of "The Heart of the Matter", not the radio-friendly shortened version.  Just so that's clear.

"Alanis Unplugged" by Alanis Morissette (1999)... Alanis is a great example of an artist I loved loved loved early, and we just kinda... well, broke up.  It happens.  It happened with me and Nirvana.  Me and Pearl Jam.  Me and Big Head Todd & the  Monsters.  And me and Alanis.

It happens.

But with "Unplugged", our musical love affair returned, however briefly.  In this live, acoustic set, she pours over her big hits, "Ironic" and "Head over Feet" and "You Learn" from Jagged Little Pill... she tosses in a few from her 2nd effort, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, like "That Would Be Good"... but its the drastic turn in "You Oughta Know" that should get you to this CD.  It slows down, yet is still just as powerful.  She does a cover of The Police's "King of Pain" which is outstanding (heresy, but I prefer this over the original) and she has an incredible ending song to the set, from the movie "City of Angels", a ditty called "Uninvited".  Its my favorite track, though "King of Pain" is right up there.

Still, there are a few unreleased gems on here, like "No Pressure Over Cappuccino", which is fun.  The whole album is like having Alanis perform in your living room, and in some ways, with MTV's Unplugged style, that's exactly what it is.  I love this record. 

"You've Got Mail Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" (1998)... Anyone who knows me knows how near and dear to my heart this movie is.  My little sister Ashley says, "You only like that movie because you at those places in the movie", and I reply, "Well... yeah."  But its such a good, good film... and like "Sleepless in Seattle", the music plays a big part of this.  From "Dreams" by The Cranberries to Nilsson's "Remember" (the scene where Kathleen shuts the shop down for good... sniff...) to Roy Orbison's "Dream Baby", its all wonderful.  A bit more modern than "Seattle", but only by a few decades. 

"Emotions" by Mariah Carey (1991)... Oh Mariah.  Where are you, my talented diva from the early 90s?  So good, so, so good.  This is the second album from Ms Carey, and she was just beginning to hit her stride (a stride she would hit in just a few short years)... the album starts right off with the powerful "Emotions", then ramps up the ballads with "And You Don't Remember" and then the powerful, heart wrenching "Can't Let Go", a song I would later put on a college mixtape cassette called "You Lost the One You Love and You Need an Excuse for Suicide" (also featuring Brian McKnight's "One Last Cry" and Gloria Estefan's "Can't Let Go", an emotional, soul ripping 1-2-3 gut punch).  The rest of "Emotions" goes on an up and down ride of love and pain and happiness in couplehood.

"Greatest Hits" by Martina McBride (2001)... Talk about your country power ballad.  Boom.  Martina McBride is one of my personal Hall of Famer and Top 20 artists of all time, and this compilation is magnificent.  Be it "Where Would You Be" to "Broken Wing", her voice is strong and when it comes to her signature song, "Independence Day", there is none better. 

I love practically every song on this album, and its actually hard to really find a favorite... there are a few songs I'm not a huge fan of, like "Love's the Only House" or "Concrete Angel", but everything else makes up for it.  Love Martina and just about everything she does.

Coming up next... a little Sixpence... some Goo Goo... and some Eddie Murphy... and later on, how about a little Smooth Love Jams.

(1758 Words in #20KWords for March... 18,242 words to go)

Monday, February 24, 2014

pride goeth before the squeeze

Before a downfall, a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor - Proverbs 18:12

Pride is a funny thing. Now, I know what you are thinking... with that kind of statement, you think I'm about to reveal to you some sort of deep truth, make some sort of admittance of guilt to you, where I was shamed and my pride created a downfall in my life, thereby creating a perfect teachable moment to you, born of my humiliation and, because its me, probably comical come-uppence.

No, sorry.

But I do want to talk about pride, and yes, I do have a story. 

The Lovely Steph Leann and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary this week, on Friday, to be exact. Ten years we've been together, and like many marriages, we strive to not just be roommates, or to stay in our comfortable roles of Mommy and Daddy... no, we are Hubs and Wife, and as any parent will tell you, its tough to be that way sometimes.

We had a sitter overnight on Saturday night, which was great--The Lovely Steph Leann's sister Angie took young Campbell Isaiah for the night to her family, freeing us up for a non-baby 24 hour period.

Now, before you raise your eyebrows, start chanting "Bow-chicka-wow-wow" and high-fiving each other, I guess I should tell you that we were both struck on Wednesday with some sort of funk, some virus that kicked us both in the teeth... or better yet, stomach... or to really TMI it up, in the back end... and it was pretty miserable.

Also worth mentioning, I've gone through several evenings with vicious acid reflux, one night so badly that I couldn't lay flat for more than 20 minutes without having horribly painful coughing fits and...

...well, you get the idea. 

So, you can stop the sing-along to H-Town's 1994 classic "Knock Knock Knockin' Da Boots", because really, we were just happy to have some time together and some quiet. 

We went to dinner at Seasons 52, up at the Summit shopping area, a place we'd never been. We had been gifted a gift card, so we thought it was good to try it out, because we knew it might be a bit pricy. Since we had money toward the bill, it was a now-or-never type idea. And we weren't disappointed... it was a fantastic meal, the service was just awesome, the atmosphere was great, and because we declared it our 10th Anniversary Dinner (because we had a sitter... we have no sitter lined up for our actual anniversary), the server and manager even gave us some extra bonuses.

We didn't get to dinner until after 8, so it was nearly 930 by the time we finished... our movie plans were pushed off until the next day, Sunday, and we just wanted to go home, get a few around the house things done and relax. 

All went well... but those of you married folk, or in deep, serious relationship, know that sometimes one little thing can ruin an evening. And if "ruin" is too strong a word, then sometimes one little thing can be annoying enough to make you just say, "Eh. I'm going to sleep."

And we had one of those little head butting moments that everyone has, and as per usual, at exactly the wrong moment. A room full of happiness and togethery time suddenly became a room of slight tension, quiet and awkward moments and a desire of two people who probably want to just open up and say, "Ok, so this is what is bothering me" but aren't saying a word because we both know its so silly... and maybe pride is saying, "Well, why should I say something? Not my fault. Or not all my fault, anyways..."

Ah, Pride. Such a silly thing.

So, after a little chit-chat with the air thick in the room with disagreement, the lights go out. She on one side, I on the other. Silence. More little chit-chat. A few coughs here and there, some very romantic throat clearing and nose-blowing. Silence.

Silence between a husband and wife when there is something unpleasant, and worse yet, unspoken, between them is louder than a thousand jet engines. 

Finally, she turned on one side. More silence. A little more chit-chat about stuff that I don't remember.

I then felt as if I should do one single thing... no, not apologize. Not yet. I didn't feel as if I should say anything. 

I felt led to make one simple gesture. To take my hand, my left and place it on her shoulder. Just a little squeeze, nothing more. Nothing sexual, nothing funny, nothing annoying like poking her or anything. Just put that hand on her shoulder and squeeze. 

But I didn't do it. 

Why should I? Right? Putting that hand up there then tells her "Hey, its okay. I was probably being stupid. I love you." And I didn't want to do that... I mean, I wasn't being stupid! I was justified! I was in the right, I was correct on my stance on the issues in question! I'm not putting my hand up there!

And so as I lay flat on my back, in the darkness, wide awake and knowing she was too, even though she lay with her back to me, my left arm stayed still. 

Again, I felt led... just put your hand on her shoulder. That fixes it. That solves it. That's the pin that punctures the balloon of tension, that's the blade that cuts through the silence and gives her a sense of "its okay. I love you."

My arm lay still. I didn't even move my hand, my fingers.

I mean, screw that. I spend way too much time in the rest of my world being right and being treated like I was wrong, or barely getting any acknowledgment for my being right, even when I prove those people wrong. I mean, I don't know why she didn't just agree with me, why she didn't just...

...why she just...

...she didn't...

...why... me... I... me... I... me... I... me... me... me...

...and Pride laughed at me, heartily and fully. Pride laughed at me in my head and in my heart and gave me a stomach twist that no virus could ever approach.

Slowly, I lifted my left arm. I placed my hand on her shoulder, and squeezed gently. Just once. It remained there for a few seconds, then I moved my arm back to where it was. 

"I love you," I whispered.


"I love you too," she whispered back.

Pride took an hour of our precious non-Campbell time. Could have been the whole night... and what's worse is, shortly thereafter, I came down with more not-feeling-good'ness... So our time was already limited, unknown to us.

(after a long night of trying to sleep, and up early for church--me, as I had KidStuf, so I let her sleep the morning away, we had a fantastic afternoon of The LEGO Movie, lunch, a little shopping and great conversations... lots and lots of laughing... and a brief chat later on about our differences from the night before... Pride can suck it.)

What precious time is Pride robbing from you? 

And what gentle squeezes on the shoulder are you refusing to give, because Pride is telling you that you're right, they are wrong and to give in would be weak? 

(10,616 words in #15KWordsInFebruary... 4,384 to go)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

my top ten books of 2013

And finally... my favorite ten books that I read in 2013...

10th Favorite Book of 2013... "Joyland" by Stephen King (2013)... Some of King's best work is not horror or of the supernatural ilk, and this is a great example of that. "Joyland" is set in 1973, and tells the story of Devin, who gets a job at an amusement park in North Carolina. He ends up befriending a few people, including Annie and her ill son Mike, plus some of the people at the park, all set with the backdrop of some unsolved murders that occurred in the Haunted House years previous. At under 300 pages, it reads quickly, and though you might see the ending coming before you get to it, its worth the ride.

9th Favorite Book of 2013... "Not Taco Bell Material" by Adam Carolla (2013)... The follow-up to 2011's "In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks", Carolla takes us on another ride full of rants, whining, common sense and comedy. Adam Carolla was a carpenter and contractor before he got famous, so he starts each chapter with a description of all the homes he lived in while growing up (its a lot, and most are pretty shady), with his brand of edgy. Yes, its got a ton of language, but man, is it funny.

8th Favorite Book of 2013... "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game" by Michael Lewis (2007)... Yes, as if you couldn't guess, this is the book the movie is based on. Whereas the movie concentrates on the story of Michael Oher, the book intersperses Oher's football life with the game itself, the strategy in recruiting, the college football landscape and even more. I thought this book was a great read for a football fan like myself, and even non-football fans will enjoy the humanizing of the game, plus, Oher's real-life story.

7th Favorite Book of 2013... "I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution" by Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks (2012)... As I mentioned in my take on the Nickelodeon book, I am a fan of oral narratives, and this one is fabulous. Starting from the early 80s, those who came up with the idea for a 24 hour music channel tell how they created such, the artists, producers and stars of the era talk about their experiences on the network, and some great behind the scenes anecdotes--like, a Fleetwood Mac video filming in the desert in the early 80s, when Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham absolutely despised each other, yet were forced to dance around like they were in love... or the video for the Go-Gos "Vacation", as Belinda Carlisle reveals, "Yeah, we were all completely wasted and stoned the entire shoot. Look at our eyes. You can tell." This was such a pleasant surprise for me! 

6th Favorite Book of 2013... "START: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters"... Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I am a Jon Acuff fan... I've written numerous articles on this here bloggy site about "STARTing" and "The START Experiment" and some things in my own life that I want to concentrate on (like "PIKE", which I think I'm really doing well... I think... maybe... okay, fine, I suck. There. You happy?).

START is all about not just enjoying your work, but making your work count... and if you are miserable and think your work counts for little, its about finding work that does matter. Punching Fear in the face is the big thing, recognizing those things that make you afraid and stand in your way of doing the things you want to do--lose weight, get a better job, write a book, whatever... great book, great inspiration.

 5th Favorite Book of 2013... "Catching Fire / Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins... I know, I know, I cheated, there are two books here. But because I couldn't knock the other 9 books out of my Top Ten, I chose to make this a tie... well, actually, I would say "Catching Fire" is 5A and "Mockingjay" is 5B, as I liked the former--the 2nd book in the Hunger Games trilogy--just a smidgen more than the latter--the finale to The Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen is back, and in "Catching Fire", she's having to deal with the Quarter Quell, which this go around involves all the former champions to return and compete. 

If you liked the movie, you will love the book, as it goes pretty close together, but the book expounds on things with the afforded room. "Mockingjay" starts right after "Catching Fire" ends, and essentially finds Katniss leading a rebellion against The Capitol, the sadistic government that reigns terror over its lands. Good middle, good ending, though I found myself a little dissatisfied with the final appearances of two of the characters. There's that.

4th Favorite Book of 2013... "How I Slept My Way to the Middle: Secrets and Stories from Stage, Screen and the Interwebs" by Kevin Pollak (2012)... For those of you who don't know Kevin Pollak, let me tell you that you do. He's been in a bajillionty movies, is a That Guy Hall of Famer, and is an incredibly funny stand-up comedian and impressionist... which, while listening to the audiobook, was great as Pollak told his story using his own voice, plus voices of Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and so many more. He spends a little time on his beginnings, his rise through the comedy club circuit and eventual dream casting in "Goodfellas", but much of it is just stories along the way... like, how his mom was so enamored with Jack Nicholson while visiting the set of "A Few Good Men", Jack eventually started openly flirting with Kevin's mom, to much hilarity. 

3rd Favorite Book of 2013... "The Squared Circle: Life, Death and Professional Wrestling" by David Shoemaker (2013)... are you a fan of wrestling and the WWE? No? Then head on down to #2 on this list. Wait, you are? Then read on, soldier, because this is the book for you. Shoemaker, a WWE and pop culture writer on, and known as "The Masked Man", opens the book up with his own love for wrestling as a young child, when his father would take him to wrestling events.
Then the book embarks on a short history of wrestling, from its early days in the South and Midwest to the beginning of the modern era, notably, the founding of the WWWF, which became the WWF, which is the WWE as we know now.  Shuemaker admits that this book is really a treatise on "dead wrestlers", and it kinda is, taking you through the origins, careers and demises of famous wrestling stars like Owen Hart, "Ravishing" Rick Rude, Flyin' Brian Pillman, and of course, the darkness that WWE tries to forget, the Chris Benoit murder/suicide.  If you are just a casual wrestling fan, you many enjoy this for its quirkiness... if you are a major fan like myself, you'll love this book, if only for the nostalgia purposes.  The only drawback is that each chapter is written like its a separate essay, making the book appear as a collective, as in, there are explanations for people and terms offered in multiple places throughout the book.  Otherwise, brilliant.

2nd Favorite Book of 2013... "Sycamore Row" by John Grisham (2013)... My main problem with Grisham in the last decade or so is that he just doesn't know how to end a book.  No, not every book can end happy, I get it, but sometimes the endings to some books make me put it down and say, "I just felt like I wasted nine hours of my life on this."   "The Appeal", "The Last Juror", "The Testament"... all great stories, riveting tales of legal and suspense, only to fall apart in the last 50 pages.  So, when he released a sequel to one of his greatest books--beginning, middle and end--"A Time To Kill", I just hoped the ending was going to be okay.

And it was great.  All of it.  It picks up a bit after the events of "A Time to Kill", and opens up with a suicide of a man who hates his family, has no friends and has never met lawyer Jake Brigance... though that doesn't stop him from sending a letter to Jake instructing him on his estate... essentially, giving most of his fortune to his black maid.  In the mid-80s, racism wasn't the boom it was in the 60s, but it was still very prevalent in deep South Mississippi, and this book touches on that.  The story is captivating, and I had a hard time putting it down... I think I went through it in four days or so.  And yes, the ending is good.  Its not perfect, but its satisfying for the story itself.  The best Grisham has done in a long, long time.

And finally, My Favorite Book of 2013...

I had heard that King was doing a sequel to his late 70s masterpiece "The Shining", centered around the life of the now grown-up Danny Torrence, who was the key figure in "The Shining".  I wondered how the Overlook would play into the story, and how much of it would be new ideas... and it was wonderful.

Danny, now grown and drunk like his father in the first book, still deals with the torment of the events at the Overlook Hotel so long ago, and settles in a small New Hampshire town as a hospice worker.  With his telekinetic abilities, he can see when a patient is about to die, and works with them to help them slip easier into the other side, hence becoming known as Doctor Sleep.

It also picks up the story of a little band of... well, bad people, known as The True Knot, who are just really mean and like to do bad things and use their telekinetic powers for evil... and finally, we meet Abra, who's own telekinetic powers are off the hook... and of course, Danny, The True Know and Abra all cross paths eventually, making for a thrilling ending to the book.  

If you are a King fan, this is one of the best he's done in a while, and a great throwback to his horror days... not as scary as "The Shining", but in many ways, more satisfying and complete.  Loved it.

Among the books I've read in 2014 so far... "Live from New York", the story of Saturday Night Live... and "Lone Survivor", by Marcus Lattrell, from whence the movie has come.  Reading now, Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood".  All three are contenders for my 2014 Top Ten Favorite Books.

(9,388 words written in February, 5,612 words left for #15KWordsinFebruary)